Sunday, October 13, 2002

Monitor's first steps: Hit ground listening




By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Two days into his job as the federally-appointed monitor overseeing reforms to Cincinnati's police department, Dr. Alan Kalmanoff got into a patrol cruiser Saturday night and went for a ride-along.

He didn't let police commanders select the car or the officer, saying he wants to maintain a “horizontal playing field.”

“That means everybody gets treated equally,” the 60-year-old Berkeley, Calif., lawyer says. “I don't play favorites.”

Dr. Alan Kalmanoff
Dr. Alan Kalmanoff
Don't take his word for it, just look at whom he is meeting.

On Saturday afternoon, Dr. Kalmanoff talked with Police Chief Tom Streicher. That was followed by an hour-long session with Lt. Col. Ron Twitty, the African-American assistant police chief whose battle with the department over claims that he lied about an accident this summer underscored the city's deep racial divide.

So what if Lt. Col. Twitty has agreed to retire after pleading no contest last month to charges that he lied about wrecking the city-owned vehicle, Dr. Kalmanoff asks.

“I will say it again, I have no allegiance to anybody,” he says, avoiding any discussion about what either person said. “I met with the city's police chief. I met with the city's highest-ranking African-American officer. Tonight I meet with patrol officers.”

Dr. Kalmanoff, “Kal,” as he insists on being called, was tapped Thursday by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott to enforce deadlines in two historical legal settlements the city made to end a federal investigation of the police department and suspend a lawsuit filed against the city by a group of African-American activists who have accused police of racial profiling.

The judge selected the monitor on her own after she became convinced that parties in the settlement — the city, the police union, the black activists and the Department of Justice — would not agree on any of 11 applicants.

Since then, he has already extended his stay in Cincinnati twice, he said in an interview at his hotel Saturday night.

“I feel like I'm late,” he says, explaining that he thinks a monitor should have been chosen long before now. “The judge's order was signed months ago and I was not here. I feel late. But what matters is starting right.”

That means “paying respects,” or getting to know the people involved.

In addition to the law enforcement officers, Dr. Kalmanoff has attended an NAACP dinner (“I shook so many hands, my hand hurt”), and met with Fraternal Order of the Police lawyer Don Hardin, city solicitors, City Manager Valerie Lemmie, top city administrators and members of the mayor's task force on race relations.

One of the few people he hasn't met yet is Mayor Charlie Luken.

“I haven't given him much time,” Dr. Kalmanoff says. “I just started all this Friday.”

Dr. Kalmanoff heads a team of 20 lawyers, retired police chiefs and former officers, researchers and scholars who will enforce overhaul of changes to police use- of-force policies, the handling and tracking of citizen complaints and new training policies. They will also oversee community efforts to implement a new system of community-police relations.

His team will be joined by Ohio Supreme Court Justice Andrew Douglas when he retires from the bench at the end of the year.

The cost of the team — which is slated to be in place for five years — is still in negotiation. But city officials, who in the settlement have agreed to pick up the costs, estimate it will be at least $1 million.

Dr. Kalmanoff, who has led reforms and investigations of more than 13 police departments and other state agencies across the country, refuses to share any initial impressions or concerns that he has about Cincinnati.

“It is too early. I have never been here before. If I tell you something today, it could change tomorrow. I could tell you something is 93 on my list of concerns now, but down the road, it could be number three,” he says.

“You have to get to know the lay of the land before you plot the farm.”

He is also aware that not one of the partners in the two settlements named him as their top choice.

“Perhaps the parties thought they knew what was going to happen. They developed hopes, aspirations, plans based on that,” he says. “Then they have this totally unexpected event occur. For one and all, that represents a loss of control.”

At the same time, he says, all of the parties have welcomed him. And that hasn't always been the case in his 30 years of providing oversight.

Still, why would anyone want to tackle a job like this?

It's comes down to two life-changing experiences, he says. The first, when his home in the hills was gutted in the devastating 1991 Oakland Hills fire.

“All I had left was my convertible Plymouth Valiant,” he says. “I still got the car, it's all I got out of the fire, and I found out it was all I needed.”

Dr. Kalmanoff says he took the insurance settlement from the house, invested it and made enough money so that he would never have to worry about his next paycheck.

He says that gave him the freedom to concentrate on his non-profit corporation, The Institute for Law and Policy Planning, and on giving something back.

“One thing I can say is I am never thinking of business when I do this work,” he says. “I don't worry about money. I am getting paid a salary out of the non-profit. This isn't about money.”

The second life-changing event occurred six years ago, when he suffered a heart virus and nearly died. He doesn't mind talking about it, but only as an explanation. He abhors pity.

He says it changed his outlook again and made him more determined to give something back.

He says being a monitor, helping the system to change by bringing people together and finding solutions, lets him do just that. Even now, when it is still just laying the groundwork and paying respects.

“The real work begins when I am in a position to succeed,” Dr. Kalmanoff says. “I am here to do a job. Obviously, if people don't cooperate with me, I will do something about it.”



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